Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, Part Two

  • "Taken together, the feminist critiques of gendered representations and of the politics of the material body can also be seen as an extended argument against the notion that the body is a purely biological or natural form" (33). This is where Bordo's tendency toward analysis of cultural artifacts like ads comes in really handy. It's easier for people--especially those new to critical thinking--to see sex or gender or race as social constructions once they can see how human-created culture informs our self-perception. In this way, she builds on both deBeauvoir and Butler.
  • "Many feminists remain agnostic or ambivalent about the role of biology and sexual 'difference,' justifiably fearful of ideas that seem to assert an unalterable female nature, they are nonetheless concerned that too exclusive an emphasis on culture will obscure a powerful, and potentially culturally transformative, aspects of women's experience (36). I like that Bordo advocates for a middle way here. I've often felt that to create an essentialist/constructionist binary is to neglect real people and how they live their lives. As I've said before, I think Butlerian performativity bridges a similar gap.
  • "These elements point to culture--working not only through ideology and images, but through the organization of the family, the construction of personality, the training of perception--as not only contributory but productive of eating disorders. A parallel exists in the formation of female hysteria" (50). Not only is it incredibly interesting that Bordo links anorexia with hysteria, but its also a very intelligent move on her part to say that such feminine diseases work to reinscribe gender norms by conforming to traditional roles. Were I to go back further to my period of study, I think I could say the same for greensickness.
  • "The current terms of the abortion debate--as a contest between fetal claims to personhood and women's right to choose--are limited and misleading. In the context of my analysis...the current battle over reproductive control emerges as an assault on the personhood of women" (72). I'm not entirely sure how the mode she sets up here is less of a limiting binary than the one she wants to break down, but I do think she's right. Galenic anatomy sees women as baby containers--any woman will do; it's the male-contributed form that's important--and recent pro-life "victories" like when a fetus "testified" in an Ohio court to prove its heartbeat suggest a similar idea, as do horrific prison conditions that force women to give birth while shackled to tables.
  • " [Anorexic] Cherry Boone O'Neal speaks explicitly of her fear of womanhood. If only she could stay thin, says yet another, 'I would never have to deal with having a woman's body; like Peter Pan I could stay a child forever.' The choice of Peter Pan is telling here--what she means is stay a boy forever (155). This idea that children are the same regardless of gender and that womanliness dirties things up is true in the English Renaissance as well.
  • "Women must develop a totally other-oriented emotional economy. In this economy, the control of female appetite for food is merely the most concrete expression of the general rule of governing the construction of femininity: that female hunger--for public power, for independence, for sexual gratification--be contained, and the public space that women be allowed to take up be limited (170). This is the entire point of the fighting in The Taming of the Shrew and The Tamer Tamed.

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